EXETER, Neb. (WOWT) -- Investigators call it a disturbing case of animal cruelty: Nebraska feedlot operator Aaron Ogren is being held on $300,000 bond after authorities found two large piles of cattle on the property.
Ogren is currently in the county jail facing 26 counts of animal cruelty.
Investigators counted more than 200 dead cattle on the property — dozens of dead calves and a horse still in its halter — stuck in the mud and left to die.
A local veterinarian said there wasn’t enough fresh water, good feed or dry land to survive. In many cases, ranchers from other states kept their cattle there.
"Truthfully, I'm having a hard time understanding how someone could let that happen," said C.J. Fell, Nebraska Brand Committee criminal investigator. "I deal with livestock on a regular basis. I have livestock. It's something you value and take care of and they're money-makers. So to treat them this poorly doesn't make sense."
According to court documents, Ogren told investigators that a number of cattle died due to the cold harsh winter.
Investigators aren’t buying it.
While Nebraska's livestock industry has suffered devastating losses during this year's spring flooding, this part of the state was not underwater.
The March floods devastated Nebraska's livestock industry — more than $1 billion dollars in damage so far.
As communities around the Midwest ship hay to help Nebraska farmers and ranchers and the National Guard drops feed to stranded livestock it becomes even more frustrating for investigators to know none of those obstacles factored into the loss of cattle here.
“No one else is having this kind of problem," Sheriff Burgess said. "There are two feedlots in the county, and they're not having this problem."
Medical experts determined how three calves died: one from pneumonia; another from not getting food; and another not having enough energy to survive the cold.
“I think the hardest part has been seeing cowboys, who are pretty hardened individuals, who are sick to their stomach over what they've seen," Fell said. "It's not something we prepare for."
Of the 263 head of cattle seized, vets say one-third of them were malnourished to the point where they might not survive.
Ranchers from Colorado and South Dakota to Nebraska took their livestock to the feedlot. Investigators are now trying to determine whether their animals are still alive and, if so, where they are.